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People v. Bailey





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. John L. Nickels, Judge, presiding.


The circuit court of Kane County found the defendant, Willie Lee Bailey, guilty of the offense of theft over $300 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)) and sentenced him to five years' imprisonment. The defendant appeals and raises two assignments of error in this court: (1) that the State failed to prove him guilty of theft over $300 beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) that he was denied due process of law because the prosecutor improperly interfered with a co-defendant's decision of whether to testify on the defendant's behalf.

Two co-defendants, Allen Woods and Joseph Burton, were charged with the same offense. Woods entered a negotiated guilty plea and was sentenced to a 3 1/2-year term of imprisonment. Burton and Bailey waived trial by jury, and their cases were tried by the court. The court entered a directed finding as to Burton and found Bailey guilty.

At trial, the State presented the testimony of three witnesses: Thomas Lester, who was handling the sales floor for Radio Shack on the date in question, Robert Trammell, the manager who was working at his desk at the back of the store, and Danny Pittman, an Aurora police officer.

Lester testified that on the date in question there was a Model 100 portable computer and a Minisette 9-cassette recorder displayed in a briefcase on a podium near the center of the store. The items were displayed in a briefcase because "[t]he whole concept of that particular model is it's a portable computer, they can carry it to work in a briefcase." The retail price of the computer and the recorder on that date was $799 and $69.95, respectively.

At about 2:20 p.m., a man later identified as Allen Woods entered the store. Lester approached him and asked if he could be of any assistance. No other customers were present in the store. Lester described this man as around 6 feet tall and very slender. He was wearing a maroon shirt, and he had a green jacket draped over his shoulder like a shawl. The man asked Lester some questions. The man pointed at some small computers and asked if they were calculators. Lester replied that they were small compact computers. Lester talked with the man for about a minute.

About half-way through his conversation with Woods, a second man, subsequently identified as Bailey, entered the store. He wandered over to Lester and Woods at first and then headed toward the back of the store.

Lester testified that, after his discussion with Woods, Bailey told Lester that he owned a video recorder and had had a plug break off in one of the jacks on the front of the unit. He wanted to know how it could be fixed. Lester testified that he looked up and glanced over to see where Woods was, and he was right in front of the briefcase display on the podium. Lester subsequently testified that he could not see the display from where he had his conversation with Bailey because of a partition. Lester testified that Bailey asked him some other questions that he could not remember. At some point, Lester told Bailey that that particular store did not really handle the video recorders. During this conversation Lester saw Woods leaving the store. After Woods left, the conversation between Lester and Bailey lasted a "[m]atter of minutes. Wasn't very long at all." Bailey then left the store. He did not stop to look at other merchandise on the way out.

Lester looked at the briefcase and noticed that the small computer was gone. Lester went out the door. Bailey was still right outside the door, and Woods was out in the parking lot, heading toward a silver, four-door, later model Pontiac or Oldsmobile. Someone else was sitting in the driver's seat of the car. Lester had a side view of Woods, whose coat was still around his shoulders.

Lester accosted Bailey and said, "[H]ey, your friend just — you know, took a computer." On cross-examination, Lester stated that Bailey replied, "I don't know what's going on." Bailey then headed toward the car. Lester did not see Woods or Bailey get into the car. He ran inside the store and told Trammell, the manager, what had occurred.

Trammell took off out the door and Lester followed him. Trammell ran over behind the car, which was starting to back out, and yelled to Lester the license plate number. Lester wrote it down.

The car then left the parking lot, turning onto Lake Street. Lester stated that when the car turned onto Lake Street, "they put a little bit of power to it, they got on it," although previously there had been no "undue haste."

Lester called the police and provided them with, among other things, the license plate number and a description of the car. About 20 to 30 minutes later the police arrived at Radio Shack. They brought a tape recorder and a computer which Lester recognized as the missing items. Lester was called upon to view three black men in a police van, and he recognized the two who had been in the store, mainly by what they were wearing.

Lester stated that, when they were in the store, there was no conversation between Woods and Bailey. During Lester's conversation with him, Bailey spoke in a normal voice. When Lester was asked whether Bailey physically prevented him from going anywhere in the store, Lester replied, "Physically, no. I start to look up and he'd ask another question." Bailey and Woods were in the store for a total of four or five minutes.

When Woods left, he did not run out of the store, but rather he took his time. Both Woods and Bailey walked away from the store. At that time, Bailey did not prevent Lester from running over to the car ...

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